Big Ten Media Day: Tom Crean’s breakout session

  • 10/27/2011 2:04 pm in

Below are some selected quotes from Tom Crean’s breakout session at Big Ten Media Day.

On the difficulty of building back up the program heading into this season: “There’s no gauge for it. When you start over — and I mean start over with a brand new team and the league is already pretty good … everybody thinks “Well, you’re starting at zero.” No you’re really not. You’re starting somewhere in the negative number because everybody else is already pretty good. It’s not like you can catch up because they’re moving forward. If everybody starts at zero, then it makes sense. But nobody did. So there’s no gauge on that. We haven’t been deep enough, we haven’t had enough depth, we certainly haven’t been talented enough at this point overall to withstand injuries. And so when you lose some key contributors on your team and you go to the bench, our guys have to do more than they’re capable of doing at that point in their game and in their career — you’re asking a lot of them. Hopefully that’s going to help us. Verdell Jones, I don’t think was being recruited by too many people early on to come in and do anything other than redshirt — maybe other people were telling him something different — but when you’re 162 pounds and 6-5, you’re probably going to redshirt. Well [he now] went over the 1,000-point marker for us as a junior in one of the first games. You just hope that those types of things continue to move forward.”

On whether the team is tougher/more mature: “They look tougher. They’re tougher against one another. Toughness really comes down to when you’re down five with three minutes to go and you got to figure out a way to win on the road — that’s real toughness and we have not been that group yet. That’s the sustainable toughness that you want to have after you’ve built it up day after day by going through different things. This team needs to have some success … We never were able to build on the momentum of the Michigan win or the Illinois win like we would have wanted.”

On the team’s mentality: “They’re hungry. I don’t think there’s any question about that. There’s a very committed attitude to them. There’s a spirit of “we’re gonna be better because we’re gonna do it together” type of thing. There’s a spirit of they want to change things, they want to change their fortunes a little bit. And so with that, that’s carried right on into practice. And we’ll see how it turns out when we start playing games.”

On whether the focus on defensive effort has carried over into practice: “I think we have. But I’m really anxious to see it against live bullets. What it looks like when we’re playing against somebody else. There’s no doubt we’ve spent a lot of time on that. And we had to because our defensive transition has to improve, our weakside blocking out has to improve. We’ve got to cut down our fouling, there’s just absolutely no way around it. We’ve got to create more turnovers off of our defense. So really, with defense and rebouding, as commonplace as they sound, for a team that’s getting more athletic, for a team that’s getting more experience, for a team that’s got some real talent coming in with somebody like Cody Zeller, the more you can create from your defense the more you can create off the backboards offensively and defensively, the better chance you have to score. And the other thing we want to do an even better job of is getting fouled and one way for that to happen is to get out in transition. To get out and run better. Well you don’t get out in transition consistently if you’re bringing it up after made baskets. So when you can get out after turnovers, when you can get out after defensive rebounds, then you have a chance to get to the foul line. We were a very good foul shooting team, but we weren’t near the top in attempts at all. So those are things we have to improve upon.

On Maurice Creek: “The tough thing with Maurice getting hurt is he gets hurt on a Friday, I get a doctor’s report on a Tuesday. He had just been examined a couple days earlier. He was ninety percent of the way back for us with all the strength factors and things like that that he had to have. We were certainly looking at him like a guy that was going to be a starter or fighting for a starting position at least by mid-December.”

On specific players setting the bar on defense: “Improvement-wise? Verdell Jones. Consistency-wise? Victor Oladipo. We got to get a bunch of guys that improve to the rate of Verdell. We’ve got to get a bunch of guys that have the rate of consistency defensively that Victor does. And Victor has to raise his standards consistently. Will [Sheehey] is getting closer to that. And what they need to understand is that team defense is such a difference-maker. And what we’re trying to get all of them to understand is that when you’re not guarding the ball, you’re always responsible for at least three things and you can not rest. You can not rest off the ball, you can not rest when the shot goes up, you can not rest on the weakside, you can not get hugged up on your man on the weakside … You can point out to any possession on the court, there’s one person guarding the ball, there’s four other people in a defensive position, there’s at least three things that they have to be responsible for. So the point being that that altertness, that awareness — all those things have got to play into it. And that’s what we’re looking for consistency-wise and improvement-wise.”

On the offense: “I’ve chosen to [not focus as much on offense]. It’s a process. Offense is always a process. This year I made a concerted effort that our offensive skill improvement in the preseason was really on driving the ball, shooting the ball, certain spacing things, but there was no offense put in. We played less and less four on four in the sense of trying to get guys to understand this, understand that. It’s really been a lot more centered on defense. Great example: Instead of scoring on offense, most of our drill work and our breakdown work was scoring on defense. So we’ve tried to put the players a little more in charge in practice on good shot, bad shot, while the coaches are focusing on on-the-ball defense, off-the-ball defense, rebounds and I’m trying to really watch technique. Four years in, we’re way past having to worry about somebody playing hard enough. That was the first three years. And frankly, it was way too much. Trying to get guys to understand how hard you had to play. Because you can’t be competitive if you’re really trying to figure out how hard you have to go. You can become competitive after you’re going hard all the time. So that’s where that’s taken shape and I like the upside of it.”

Responding to a question about how Cody Zeller “will handle the pressure”: “Who’s pressuring him? His family? I don’t think Cody is going to feel any pressure from anybody. I think Cody is a unique person. He’s very true to himself. He knows who he is. He comes from a very grounded background. He’s got a great family. Great mom and dad, great brothers. He’s got a coach that has expectations for him inside of the team. Not what your expectations would be, not what somebody in the stands expectations would be, not what anyone else’s expectations would be. I’m doing him a disservice if it’s viewed any differently than that. And he’d be doing himself a disservice. We’re not a group that’s a one-man team or a two-man team. We have to be a deep team. And Cody has to be a part of that. Now, with that being said, he’s skilled enough, he’s talented enough that he can make the game easier for so many other people in the way that he plays to that expectation level there is in practice. But outside expectations, they mean absolutely nothing.”

On the Big Ten: “The Big Ten since I’ve followed it, but especially since we’ve been in it, it’s always an older league. It’s an experienced league. It’s a junior-and-senior-dominated league. It’s an excellent coaching league … Anybody that underestimates Pat Chambers at Penn State or Doc Sadler at Nebraska will be sadly mistaken when the game ends because those guys are outstanding coaches … The coaching in this league never drops. It never drops. And the level of experience in this league never seems to drop. Now, hopefully we’re closer to that with the guys we got. But we haven’t won. So we have to be in the position where we have to earn those wins, we have to get some momentum so we can string some things together.”

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting that he’d call out VJ as the most improved defensively.  I hope he’s right.

    And while I’m sure he knows what he’s doing by focusing on defense first, I cringed a little at that, thinking about our many long scoring droughts.

  • GB

    aka, 5 guys standing around not sure what to do with it? Yea, I’m with ya there

  • Dyersl

    We had many more droughts of not being able to stop people. 

  • Anonymous

    That, and although I like that we are deeper, I hope that doesn’t mean substitutions every thirty seconds.  Try stringing success together as a team when your “team” on the floor is never consistent.  I hope he gets a solid 7-9 man rotation down that players can depend on as the season goes on.

  • cooper

    Its a little troubling that for 3 years the team’s had players who don’t try hard enough. 

  • MillaRed

    I remember my high school baseball team winning 90% of their games my Fr year. We lost all 9 starters to graduation and 3 other sr. pitchers. I started at SS as a soph. along with 7 other underclassmen. We had one senior that rarely saw the field.

    When you go out there, knowing if every single kid had the game of their lives, you would still lose, it is a mental nightmare. “Don’t try hard enough” is pretty harsh. More realistically the outcome of the majority of these games was determined before the season started. I just don’t think they will feel that way anymore.

  • Casey B.

    Not trying to be cynical at all here, but wasn’t this “focus on defense only” method our approach last offseason as well? 

    I just hope this year’s go at it will prove more successful.

  • Scott

    I think Crean was saying “rate” of improvement was the best.  VJIII had a long way to go in order to defend effectively so he made a big jump from where he was last year. That does not necessarily mean that he is the most improved.  He could still be our worst defender but at least he made a big jump over last year’s work. I am still waiting to see VJ’s improvement because I didn’t see it at HH.  When VO and Will play backcourt defense together, they can shut down all the other guards on our team. I saw that happen a few plays at HH but the coaches made some changes and I wanted to see more of their defense. Hope somebody talks about the backcourt d after the scrimmage this Saturday. I’ll be at the game but not at the scrimmage.   

  • HoosierDadE

    Hmmmmm….me thinks this Cody fella might play a role in the team this year. 

    Also, broken record thy name is “IU playing better defense”.  Let’s hope we get off repeat this year.

  • Anonymous

    It was, but last year’s team was less experienced and athletic than this one. With VO and WS likely to earn more minutes this year the athleticism on the perimeter has been upgraded significantly over Hulls/VJIII/Wat. Hopefully that, along with modest improvement from those three guys, leads to an improved defense.

  • cooper

    I respect your point, but don’t buy it. I think there are just as many stories about teams not being very good and working their arses off, look at Princeton and mid major teams that make a run. Plus these guys aren’t in high school, they are getting a free education and most have the belief (though delusional) they can play pro ball somewhere

    It was Crean who made the comment about not playing hard, I just don’t understand how you can see that on the team and not do something about it? Nobody on the team the last 3 years was/is above getting thrown out of practice, being suspended or even booted off the team if they didn’t try hard enough. Not to go all Knight on this, but someone should have been made an example of, just like Jordan Crawford was when Crean started.

    The reason players like Suhr or Moore are liked is because they have very little talent but huge hearts and the will to try hard. To have guys (most of whom would not be wearing an IU jersey without the team failing on hard times) not playing hard is pathetic.

  • It’s WINdiana!

    The question to answer is can we play defense without fouling?  Bobby, Tom, and Derek would foul out walking to class last year.  Part of it was their fault, part of it was covering for the weak perimeter D. 

    IU teams were known for making more foul shots than the other team took.  If we can get some semblance of that back that will win us 4-5 more games right there. 

    Probably the biggest improvement over last year’s team is the depth.  VO and Sheehey are stronger, more experienced and can take over (instead of fill in) for Creek.  Plus, I hope Roth and Etherington have a friendly rivalry over who’s going to make the most 3s. 

  • It’s WINdiana!

    The question to answer is can we play defense without fouling?  Bobby, Tom, and Derek would foul out walking to class last year.  Part of it was their fault, part of it was covering for the weak perimeter D. 

    IU teams were known for making more foul shots than the other team took.  If we can get some semblance of that back that will win us 4-5 more games right there. 

    Probably the biggest improvement over last year’s team is the depth.  VO and Sheehey are stronger, more experienced and can take over (instead of fill in) for Creek.  Plus, I hope Roth and Etherington have a friendly rivalry over who’s going to make the most 3s. 

  • InTheMtns

    You’re all spot on – we heard the same thing last year.  Even from the players.  I do have faith that it is going to become reality one of these times, though, because CTC’s Marquette teams were always very good defensive teams.  We’ve got more depth this year so maybe CTC has a better chance of enforcing “defense first” by sitting any player who seems to forget it.

  • marcusgresham

    The reason why players like Suhr or Moore are loved is because they’re short and they’re walk-ons.  5’8″ and not able to earn a scholarship is something that virtually everyone in the crowd can relate to.

  • Anonymous

    The thing with the offense is, haven’t posters here said for Crean’s entire tenure that he was running the offense he hoped to one day run with the personnel to be effective?  I know people have complained that he didn’t change it to maybe be a little more efficient for the first few years, but I think the consensus was that he’d basically installed an offense that was going to be around for when he got high-level talent.  

    So I don’t think it’s too big of a surprise that not much is changing.  And, as it is, IU’s offensive efficiency, and other stats, actually ranked fairly high, especially relative to their defensive numbers, so I think the focus is probably correct.  I think IU has scorers this season, as long as they make good decisions (VJ3) and don’t turn it over (VJ3 again).  Watford, Zeller, Hulls, Jones, Oladipo, Sheehey, and Elston can all score, most in multiple ways, and Roth and Pritchard can score if others create for them.  I don’t know enough about Abell and Etherington to judge, but it seems like they can do some things.  To me, having the right player initiating the offense is so important, so Hulls stepping up this year is huge.  

    But the biggest change in offensive flow will probably be Zeller’s passing ability.  I used to cringe when Pritchard would take a handoff on the wing in certain sets last year.  I doubt I’ll still react that way when Zeller gets it in those same spots.

  • MillaRed

    If a football team has a great offensive line, and are running down your throats, it doesn’t matter if you have 8 or 9 defenders in the box. They are going to run on you anyway. You can play as hard as you want, but at some point it affects you mentally. I think the IU bball team can relate to that.

    At any rate, these players and we fans need to move on. Maybe he regrets saying those words. Either way I think the team will play harder with more talent around them.

  • MillaRed

    I won’t take anything away from these guys, but the fact they are even on the floor accentuates my point.

    Sorry but I can’t feel great about my odds when I am taking on MSU and someone at this talent level and size is on the wing. That is not a winning situation. Meanwhile, Keith Appling is running around them like a 3rd grader.

  • MillaRed

    The extra weight and strength is such a key out there. I have played when I’m not in great shape and when I am 10-15 pounds over my natural. The difference is unquestionable. People start bouncing off of you instead of moving you around. I think Will and VO will benefit from this the most. It will be interesting to see what Jordy  can do. We need him on the floor 30 minutes a game.

  • Kfdchev

    If you go into a game thinking the outcome is already determined then the outcome IS already determined. I am a very competitive person by nature and I am not even an average an athlete but I have never went into any game of any kind thinking the outcome is predetermined. As a competitor in any type of competition you cannot allow that thought to slip into your mind. Every team and every player have weaknesses and your goal has got to be to expose those weaknesses while hiding your own. Granted there are times when there just isn’t enough camouflage available to do the job, as has been the case here the last three years. But you cannot go into any contest thinking you have lost before the game starts and expect anything other than to get your butt kicked. One of RMK’s favorite quotes was “in basketball….mental is to physical as 5 is to 1”. Nothing he ever said could more true. If you are not mentally tough you CANNOT be physically tough. That has been a lot of the issues we have on defense. Defense IS mental toughness. You can be a pretty good defender and have little athletic ability. If you have the work ethic and the determination and the ability to beleive in yourself and your team you can over come a great deal of adversity